D.C. City Council member John Ray took his mayoral campaign into the world of drug dealers and drug users at 14th and W streets NW yesterday. From that intersection, he told reporters that as mayor, he would deal with the city's rising crime rate by hiring all the policemen possible under the department's current budget and asking the courts to give top priority to cases of drug sales and crimes involving guns.
Ray said that, as mayor, he would open additional drug treatment programs for addicts--people he characterized as "the most predictable of criminal recidivists." He said treatment facilities now available are filled to capacity, leaving addicts who want to beat their habits without the help they desperately need.
The candidate also said that he would begin job training programs for prison inmates and would propose expunging some criminal records "after a substantial period of lawful conduct in order to enhance the job prospects of ex-offenders.
"Crime is the number one issue in the city and rightly so," said Ray, who is the leading supporter of a referendum on the September ballot asking for mandatory sentences for persons convicted of selling drugs or of committing violent crimes with guns.
Ray's mandatory sentencing proposal has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union as a possible threat to the sentencing discretion of judges. The ACLU said mandatory sentences would not deter criminals from illegal acts because they generally have no fear of being arrested.
In a position paper on crime, Ray responded to that group by saying that their conclusions are merely opinions, and that law enforcement officials contend that the principal reason that criminals repeatedly commit offenses is that they have "no fear of real punishment."
Ray also criticized Mayor Marion Barry for allowing the number of policemen in the city to drop. He said Barry hurt morale on the force by "refusing for nearly two years to bring the department up to authorized strength . . . . "
In the first two years that Barry was mayor, the budgeted strength of the force dropped from 4,743 to 4,669, a difference of 74 positions. The actual number of policemen in uniform remained about the same--approximately 3,380.
During the same period, 1979-1981,crime increased by about 20 percent.
"It is the opinion of most police officials that the department can still do a good job at this manpower level," Ray wrote in the policy paper, "but only if morale is at high levels and officers are highly motivated. Given the treatment of the police department by the current administration, it is no wonder that this is not presently the case."
A proposal by Ray to speed the court system's handling of cases includes a four-level system of priorities to be assigned to cases, the most urgent involving drug sales and violent crimes committed with guns. The second priority would ask for emphasis on the arrest and prosecution of criminal repeaters. The other priorities involve crimes of a less serious nature.
Earlier this week, Barry authorized a police program to maintain close surveillance of repeat offenders.
As Ray was conducting his press conference at 14th and W, in the midst of clusters of drug traders, a man in sunglasses began shouting at the candidate.
"Selling drugs, selling socks, selling dogs," the man shouted. "Man has got to feed his family. Why don't y'all get them some jobs? . . . You going to open your basement up and bring twenty of them in your house at night?"
"Let me say that my grandmother, grandfather went through life and had a very hard time,"said Ray. "We went through a depression and they didn't sell drugs to their sisters and brothers, didn't sell drugs to young people and I don't care who you are, there is no excuse for selling drugs."